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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Australian charged with human trafficking in the Philippines

Updated June 30, 2011 14:35:40

An Australian man has been arrested in the Philippines and is facing the prospect of life in jail, after being charged under the country's tough anti-human trafficking laws.

It's alleged Terrence Smith managed a nightclub where women, recruited from southern towns, were misled into working as prostitutes.

He's one of several men arrested after raids on bars in a notorious red-light district in the northern city of Angeles in which police say they rescued around one-hundred sex workers.

Presenter: Lexi Metherell
Speaker: Bernadette McMenamin, chief executive of child protection organisation ChildWise; Superintendent Emma Libunao, Philippines National Police

METHERELL: The pressure has been on the Philippines to deal with the scourge of human trafficking and illegal sex work according to Bernadette McMenamin, an expert on human trafficking and prostitution.

MCMENAMIN: My first impressions is this is a very new approach for the Philippines authorities and that's good.

METHERELL: Just this week the US secretary of state Hillary Clinton praised president Benigno Aquino for effecting a "sea change" in the Philippine campaign against human trafficking.

Her remarks came after the US State Department recognised the Philippines' attempts to crack down on the trade by dropping it from a human trafficking watch list.

But Bernadette McMenamin says it's easy for criminals to buy their way out.

MCMENAMIN: They get out on bail. So they pay the victims and the victims' families off to withdraw evidence. And then they move from the Philippines to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, wherever and just set up again.

METHERELL: Angeles, just north of Manilla, has earnt the tag "sin city" because it's a magnet for sex tourists.

Last night police swooped on the city's red light district of Fields Avenue, raiding several nightclubs and arresting a number of foreign nationals including an Australian, Terrence James Smith.

He allegedly managed a club called the Sunshine Bar.

Superintendent Emma Libunao of the Philippines National Police led the operation.

LIBUNAO: He is in the nightclub overseeing the day-to-day operation of the club every day.

METHERELL: And do you know how long he had been there for?

LIBUNAO: For many years already I guess. He is known in the area.

METHERELL: She says the Sunshine Bar was targeted after the mother of a 25 year old woman working there complained her daughter was forced to stay there against her will.

LIBUNAO: Allegedly the girl was recruited in the southern part of the Philippines to work as a waitress serving food. But upon reaching Angeles city she was forced to dance in a skimpy outfit and render sexual services to foreign clients.

METHERELL: Prostitution is illegal in the Philippines but superintendant Libunao says sex workers aren't prosecuted. Authorities instead target traffickers and pimps.

Terrence Smith isn't accused of recruiting sex workers for the bar. But it is alleged he helped arrange sex for customers.

He's been charged with breaching the Philippines' anti-trafficking laws.

LIBUNAO: He might be guilty of qualified trafficking in person that calls for a punishment of life imprisonment.


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